While we seem to make decisions at a snap of the finger whether it is choosing something to eat, buying something online or a rebuttal at a nasty comment aimed at us, the process of decision making is quite complex.
Several part of the brain is involved in a decision including the rational brain or the Pre-frontal cortex, the Amygdala that governs fight or flight response, and Anterior-Cingulate Cortex which regulates emotions, linking reward and punishment. So every decision would include both objective thinking and our emotions. So depending on how we feel, we will make decisions differently.
What can influence decisions making?
Attentional biases can influence the way we make decisions such as our fixations on certain thoughts about a thing. These biases are our tendency to pay attention on some things while ignoring others. Hence, when we are emotional, our attentional biases will increase and may reduce the function of our rational brain. So we make decisions based on our emotions and not objectively.
Addictive substance and actions
Our brain has certain pathways or circuits that kicks into action with addictive actions or substances. These are known as the pleasure pathways or reward centers. The reward circuits in the brain includes, pleasure, motivation, reward and memory. Hence, we will keep making those decisions to get the stuff that gives us the pleasure that our brain craves. Drugs, alchohol and addictive substances can have a sedating effect on our rational brain and dull our abilities to think objectively. In fact, some alcohol takes only 10 minutes to affect your cognitive brain and depending on the type of alcohol you consume, you may pass out within 40 minutes.
Stephanie Groman and Jane Taylor, researches at Yale University found that excess chemical such as dopamine D3 receptors in the midbrain can affect a person’s ability to adjust to changing conditions in a test of flexible decision-making.
We need to be mindful to manage our emotions and avoid addictive substances in order to make good and rational decisions. At the same time, inflexibity in decision making or consistantly poor decisions in the absense of substance misuse could be a sign that the our brain needs a bit of professional help.